Hue Jackson is on record saying he likes his quarterbacks big and tall. But as the Browns’ search for their future, franchise signal-caller intensified, it became clear to him that guy was Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, an undersized former walk-on whom Cleveland made the first-overall pick Thursday night in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“I’m being very honest, it started at the Combine. Just talking to him and listening to some of the things he has said, and I go, ‘OK, well, that still didn’t convince me yet,’” Jackson said Saturday afternoon.
“Then going down and working him out in Norman (Okla.) … watching him with his teammates, and how he throws the football. The ball jumps off his arm. He has a quick arm. He’s very accurate with the ball.”
That visit helped Jackson gain a “new appreciation” for Mayfield, whose competitive fire, toughness, accuracy and football IQ helped him become one of college football’s most productive players.
The next step was hosting him on a pre-draft visit at the team’s facility, where he met with Jackson, general manager John Dorsey and various members of the team’s executive staff. The results were equally positive.
“Baker Mayfield is, from a football IQ standpoint, as good as I have been around. He has tremendous arm talent, more so than anybody knows,” Jackson said. “Obviously, he has proved that he is very accurate with the football. I really think he is a tremendous leader. He has a lot of qualities that we look for.
“I think a lot of people, I think it’s somewhat coming out, I think a lot of people had him as their best quarterback,” he continued. “We’re very excited to have him, and very glad that he’s going to be here in this organization.”
Indeed, Mayfield is the headliner of a nine-member class that also includes former Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward (No. 4), Nevada offensive lineman Austin Corbett (No. 33) and Georgia running back Nick Chubb (No. 35).
Considering Cleveland’s long struggles at quarterback, of course, Mayfield will be under an especially bright spotlight from here on out. The plan is for him to sit and learn behind veteran Tyrod Taylor, which, Jackson said, should only benefit him in the long-term.
In the meantime, Jackson said there’s no doubt that Mayfield can be the quarterback that helps the Browns turn themselves around.
“I know there are outliers to this, there is no question about it. I think of my time with Michael Vick a little bit. This is not a cookie-cutter situation, when you’re trying to find the right quarterback that fits for you,” he said.
“There are things that you’re very bullish on, and this has got to be there, but there are also things where you keep watching the tape – you have to let the tape tell the story for you. If you watch his tape, it says it all. The guy can play quarterback and play it well.”